Location, Location, Location

As gas prices begin yet another round of increases with no end in sight (if ever) homebuyers are finding that picking the right location is more valuable than ever.

America was built on the automobile. The sheer size of the nation, coupled with the majesty of its natural landforms, not to mention the American ideals of independence and self-reliance, served to focus national transportation away from large-scale mass transit, and onto personal transportation modes. Simply put: we are a nation of drivers, and our infrastructure reflects that. With the exception of some major metropolitan cities, most of America is spread out: we live in one place, work in another, shop in another, and play in yet another, and all of them located too distant from each other for easy access except by car.

Unfortunately, current economic and market conditions, decreased supplies, increased demands, and strong international competition are all driving gas prices sky-high. Prices are at a four-month high, despite the winter’s typical decrease in travel. According to the EIA, the Energy Information Administration, the nationwide average price per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline is $3.75. That’s a whopping 21 cent hike from the beginning of February alone. Speculators are predicting some price decreases in the spring, then increased imports and additional production kick in. Though the current jump is blamed on the low-season closing of US refineries for maintenance, Americans have seen steady increases in gas prices through the past decade, and though prices fluctuate, significant long-term cost declines are not expected.

As gas prices rise, the cost of all of this travel is taking its toll, and Americans are beginning to reevaluate their lifestyle choices. Not only are they seeking out homes closer to their primary places of employment, homebuyers are now actively searching for housing options that cut down on their travel expenses.

One of the housing options gaining renewed popularity is the “walking community” – neighborhoods located within walking distance to core necessities such as grocery stores, shops, schools, and more. Some walking communities are planned by building neighborhoods close to these amenities, others have developed when zoning and construction brought the shops and schools to the neighborhoods, while others have even been custom-built from the ground up as all-inclusive communities. This trend has also helped spur urban renewal in many areas, bringing new life to downtowns. Other community movements from bike paths to carpool-lanes are also gaining in popularity. New and existing mass transit systems from major suburban hubs and areas of dense housing to downtowns and other large employment centers are also gaining increased support, and homes within easy access to transit are gaining a boost in interest and sale value.

Homebuyers feeling the pinch of the pump should carefully evaluate home locations that best suit their needs. Families may need to compromise to find the best location to balance multiple places of employment, schools, and other regular destinations, with the homes and neighborhoods that best suit their needs and desires. Mapping travel distances and frequencies can also help homebuyers focus their search, while factoring in access to mass transit and other transportation options into their envisioned lifestyles.

As gas prices continue to shed light on the value of transportation and convenience, the old axiom “location, location, location” is gaining new focus and emphasis in today’s housing market.

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About David GoldsteinDavid Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

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